Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Shep’s 12-year vigil for his late owner

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Shep the black and white sheepdog lived for many years with Francis McMahon at his home in the state of Illinois. The pair were always together, going on walks or sitting quietly at home listening to the radio. This contented life went on for many years, with Shep always being protective of his owner’s well-being and safety. Francis, too, trusted his quiet, undemonstrative dog. However, one day he failed to take notice of his dog’s warning behaviour – with disastrous consequences.

It happened when Francis was going to descend his basement stairs to do some repair work. Shep started barking furiously. This was unlike the sheepdog’s normal behaviour, so Francis looked around. But seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he continued down the stairs. After a few seconds, however, Francis lost his footing on one of the stairs and fell head first into the basement. It was an accident Shep had apparently foreseen.

An ambulance was called, and the unfortunate Francis was rushed immediately to hospital, with Shep following in a relative’s car. It soon became apparent that Francis had fractured his skull in the accident and was seriously ill.

However, he remained conscious and as he was being wheeled out of the emergency room Francis was able to call out to Shep, who was sitting in an agitated state in the hospital corridor near the entrance. Francis reassured the animal that he would okay, and told Shep to wait for him at the front of the hospital.

Obedient as ever, Shep did just as Francis asked and loyally waited by the front steps of the hospital for his master to return. Unfortunately, Francis’s condition worsened, and within just a few hours of talking to Shep he died.

Shep was on the other side of the hospital when this happened, and remained in his position as he had been told to do. But as they wheeled the body of Francis through a rear door of the hospital, the dog let out an anguished howl. He did not need to see Francis’s body to know that he had passed away. But though his owner was now dead, Shep stayed where had been told to, near the steps of the front of the hospital. From now on, this area became the dog’s new home.

Shep kept a lonely vigil for his departed owner, a vigil that lasted a full 12 years. Although Shep knew his master was gone, by obeying Francis’s final order he somehow felt closer to the man he loved.

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